The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has issued a stark warning against the rise in cases of drugs bought on Snapchat after the deaths of teenagers due to fentanyl overdose. A single pill purchased online can be fatal because the drugs contain synthetic opioids.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said that Snapchat had been a go-to site for many teenagers and young adults for these fentanyl-laced pills, but drug trading has also increased in platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Milgram warned that the DEA would be going to social media platforms to make specific demands to curb these illegal drug activities.
At least nine teens and young adults had died after an intake of drugs bought on Snapchat. The DEA is investigating these cases and has reminded the public that these counterfeit pills are "more lethal and more accessible than ever before."
"We are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children," Milgram said during the press conference.
Parents Speak Out on Drugs Bought on Snapchat
Dad Matt Capelouto told NBC News that his daughter, Alex, 19, had easy access to the drugs on the social media platform. He compared it to buying pizza because the dealers even do home deliveries. Capelouto's daughter died in 2019.
Mom Amy Neville said her son, Alexander, 14, had been experimenting with drugs and had been to rehab for his mood and anxiety issues. He bought OxyContin on Snapchat, which poisoned him instantly since the pills sold online are counterfeit. Neville believes that the social media platform is an accomplice to her son's death.
Mom Allison Beattie relayed that his 23-year-old son Ryan bought Percocet and Xanax on Snapchat to help with his headaches. Since he was 15 years old, Ryan has been on and off opioids after a concussion during a basketball game. Doctors, however, have stopped prescribing the medication to him because of the risks of overdose. He found them on the online platform and collapsed after taking one pill. The paramedics couldn't revive him.
These drugs bought on Snapchat are manufactured in Mexico and look like legal prescription pills. However, tests made on the drug samples showed that the "medication" contains enough levels of fentanyl that could kill a person.
Traces of the kids' online activity provided the DEA the evidence of drugs bought on Snapchat. Some dealers have been arrested and charged, but the parents want the social media site to be accountable.
Snap, the mother company of Snapchat, has made public service announcements to warn its users of the dangers of counterfeit pills and drug use. Snapchat spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said that these illegal activities are prohibited on their platform, and they support the DEA and other law enforcement agencies in their investigations.
The company stated that they are consulting with experts, nonprofits, and the DEA to help their moderating team understand and catch drug-related sales and promotion on their platform. Snap has also committed to updating its tools to block these activities. However, any suspected dealers banned from the platform may sign up again using another phone number.
Snap has a summit with law enforcement officials this October to boost its crackdown further.
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